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Teacher "Survivor"

Each week, Instant Meeting presents an idea or activity that you might use to make staff meetings more interesting, teacher-centered, educational, or fun.

Brief Description/Purpose

The "Survivor" TV show offers a great starting point for a day of building staff camaraderie and setting a tone for a year focused on meeting needs of all students.

Materials Needed

Material needs are based on the activities you choose to include in your "Survivor Day." Each stunt might require different props. You might do this activity "all out" and involve the entire administrative team and special teachers (art, music, physical education) in planning the day. On the other hand, you might scale down the Survivor Day described below by planning a few simple activities to help build morale and camaraderie and make a strong point about focusing on the needs of all students.

Time Required


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This activity is suited best to a full day of fun and reflection. It can, however, be scaled back from the day described below to fit a half-day or even a couple hours.

"Instant Meeting" Idea

"I've spent most of today covered in face paint, glitter glue, feathers, and beads," wrote teacher Brenda Dyck. "This apparent masquerade was part of my school's first-day staff training -- a staged simulation based on the successful TV series 'Survivor.' It didn't take long, however, to realize that the purpose of this day was about much more than fun"

The creative administrative team at Masters Academy in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), used the Survivor TV show as the takeoff point for a series of activities aimed at building team and school camaraderie.

To start the day, each team of teachers spent about 20 minutes establishing a team persona -- a look, a tribal chant, a banner, and a presentation. They spent the rest of the day attempting activities in which they might outwit, outplay, or outlast one another. The following are a few of the competitive activities that were part of the day:

  • Tribal Feud Challenge: a timed competition in which teams named as many things as possible in a specified category, such as kinds of cheese, Looney Tunes cartoon characters, and types of boards.
  • Tribal Fitness Challenge: an elaborate obstacle course on the school playground.
  • Tribal Wisdom Challenge: a test based on the school vision and mission.
  • Tribal Explorer Challenge: a pattern-maze competition.
  • Tribal "Feast": a true Survivor lunch -- clear broth, bun, water, and extras that could be purchased with tribal bucks.

After a day of fun, the staff sat down to discuss what people had learned from the Survivor simulation. Following are some of the comments participants shared:

  • The simulation created a winners-losers atmosphere.
  • There was lots of recognition for the winners and little recognition for those who tried hard.
  • Teams and individual players were constantly ranked. Losers felt discouraged and even embarrassed. Those valuable lessons and more were aimed at setting a year-long tone of sharing and reflecting, focusing on meeting all students' needs, and having fun in the process. Read the articles below for more details about the activities of the day and the lessons learned.

Read More

Back-to-School "Survivor Day" Offers Lessons About Quality Learning
Brenda Dyck recounts how her school's administrators used the Survivor TV show as a theme to strengthen teams, build camaraderie, present challenges -- and teach a few lessons about how to create a quality classroom environment for students. Included: Survivor activity ideas and teacher reactions.

Follow-Up

The "Survivor" theme can be extended to include students. Learn how one school and one teacher used the theme to build school and classroom community in the Education World articles below:

"Survivor" Fosters Community Through Friendly Competition
Schools are capitalizing on the popularity of the Survivor TV program by establishing their own competitions to promote community spirit and teamwork. Should your school host a sequel to Survivor? Included: The challenges and rewards of Survivor programs.

"Survivor" in the Classroom
Mary Noyes, a teacher at Minneota (Minnesota) Public School, created this activity that adapts the idea behind Survivor to an outside-of-class project. How many of your students would survive?

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